[Published 8 April 2015]
President Obama seems to have been unduly optimistic in triumphantly proclaiming the success of the P5+1 talks with Iran in Lausanne.
Speaking from the White House President Obama announced:
“Today, the United States — together with our allies and partners — has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
There was only “an understanding” — not even a piece of paper initialed by representatives of all the parties to the long and complex negotiations - that President Obama could wave to the waiting media setting out what that “understanding” was.
It did not take long to discover the reason explaining the absence of such an initialled document.
It turns out there are in fact two pieces of paper — one prepared by each side — but neither signed or agreed to by the other:
1. Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear ProgramThe first and simplest question one needs to ask is — in what language will the final authorised version of the agreement be actually framed?
2. Iranian Fact Sheet on the Nuclear Negotiations which was only published in Farsi — but has been subsequently translated into English - for which there does not appear to be an official Iranian Government translation.
Will it be English or Farsi or both?
Can the nuances of language be properly translated from one language into another language so that the meaning of the words is absolutely identical in both versions?
Was this very basic issue even addressed at the Lausanne negotiations? No mention of it appears in either of the above documents.
Who is going to draft the agreement — supposed to be ready for signing on 30 June — the P5+1 or Iran?
The appearance of these above two documents supposedly recording their “understanding” have already revealed wide gaps in each party’s understanding of their understanding.
It can be reasonably concluded that the parties were indeed miles apart and that there is a lot more negotiating to do before a draft agreement can even be produced for discussion purposes — let alone signed in final form.
The differences between the two documents are stark on issues of major importance — as the Wall Street Journal points out:
“The U.S. says sanctions relief will be phased, suspended, and tied to Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal. Iran says the sanctions, once the final agreement is sealed, will end more quickly.”
“Iran says it will limit enrichment and its stockpile for 10 years, the U.S. says 15.”
“U.S.: The IAEA will have regular access to Iran’s nuclear facilities as well as the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran: The fact sheet doesn’t specifically mention access to facilities or inspections, but does say Iran would, on a voluntary and temporary basis, implement an “additional protocol” on access to nuclear facilities, “for the sake of transparency and confidence building.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly held marathon negotiations through the night that ended after 6 a.m. on the morning of April 2, as they tried to overcome final gaps for a political accord on an Iran nuclear deal.
The result — two very different documents presenting two very different perspectives of what each side has taken away from the negotiations.
President Obama expressed his thanks:
“to our tireless — and I mean tireless — Secretary of State John Kerry and our entire negotiating team. They have worked so hard to make this progress.”
The President must be joking.